September 18, 2009: President Obama, Joe Wilson & Health Care


(President Barack Obama speaks about the financial crisis on the anniversary of the
Lehman Brothers collapse Monday, Sept. 14, 2009, at Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City. 
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


  • New Yorkers Want a Giuliani-Cuomo Face-Off in 2010: For months, the polls have been a ski slope for New York Gov. David Paterson – all downhill. The 2010 gubernatorial match-up that most New Yorkers want to see is Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on the Democratic side and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for the Republicans. And, in that contest, Cuomo leads 53 percent to 43 percent, with 4 percent undecided, according to a Marist Poll conducted Sept. 8-10. The margin of error for that result is 3.5 points. – Politics Daily, 9-16-09


President Barack Obama speaks about the U.S. missile defense in Europe
(President Barack Obama speaks about the U.S. missile defense in Europe during a statement in the Diplomatic
Reception Room of the White House, Sept. 17, 2009.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Dems unhappy with proposed tax in health care bill: Unhappy Senate Democrats on Thursday found plenty to complain about in the fine print of the latest health overhaul bill, particularly a tax provision they fear would hit hard at middle-class Americans, from coal miners in West Virginia to firefighters in New York.
    The opposition sprang up a day after Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., unveiled long-delayed legislation that would transform the nation’s health care system, requiring almost everyone to buy insurance, making insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions and reining in spiraling health care costs.
    The bill has given fresh momentum to President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority of extending health coverage and controlling costs…. – AP, 9-17-09
  • Rockefeller Stands Up for Liberals on Health Care: On Tuesday, John D. Rockefeller IV, a leading Senate liberal on health issues, said he would oppose a new Democratic proposal intended to win elusive Republican support to remake the health system. On Wednesday, he was summoned to a private meeting with President Obama…. – NYT, 9-17-09
  • Dueling ‘racist’ claims defuse once powerful word: Everybody’s racist, it seems. Republican Rep. Joe Wilson? Racist, because he shouted “You lie!” at the first black president. Health care protesters, affirmative action supporters? Racist. And Barack Obama? He’s the “Racist in Chief,” wrote a leader of the recent conservative protest in Washington. But if everybody’s racist, is anyone? The word is being sprayed in all directions, creating a hall of mirrors that is draining the scarlet R of its meaning and its power, turning it into more of a spitball than a stigma. – AP, 9-17-09
  • House bill would boost Pell Grants: The House voted Thursday in favor of the biggest overhaul of college aid programs since their creation in the 1960s — a bill to oust private lenders from the student loan business and put the government in charge.
    The vote was 253-171 in favor of a bill that fulfills nearly all of President Barack Obama’s campaign promises for higher education: The measure ends subsidies for private lenders, boosts Pell Grants for needy students and creates grant programs to improve community colleges and college graduation rates, among other things…. – AP, 9-17-09
  • Obama Is Pushing Israel Toward War President Obama can’t outsource matters of war and peace to another state: Events are fast pushing Israel toward a pre-emptive military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, probably by next spring. That strike could well fail. Or it could succeed at the price of oil at $300 a barrel, a Middle East war, and American servicemen caught in between. So why is the Obama administration doing everything it can to speed the war process along? At July’s G-8 summit in Italy, Iran was given a September deadline to start negotiations over its nuclear programs. Last week, Iran gave its answer: No…. – WSJ, 9-15-09
  • President Is to Appear on ‘Late Show With David Letterman’: After recording interviews for five Sunday political talk shows, President Obama will sit down with David Letterman on Monday night. Mr. Obama will be the sole guest on “Late Show,” CBS announced on Tuesday…. – NYT, 9-15-09
  • Senate Health Bill Due Wed, But Bipartisan Deal Elusive: Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., will release a long-awaited health-care bill Wednesday, but his Republican counterpart decried an “artificial deadline” for coming to agreement on the bill and appears to be withholding his support for it.
    Baucus told reporters that he will continue negotiations on the bill after he releases it Wednesday, expressing optimism that he will attract bipartisan support for the measure before the Finance Committee votes on it. The Finance Committee is expected to take up the bill as soon as next week…. – WSJ, 9-15-09
  • Jimmy Carter: Wilson comments ‘based on racism’: Former President Jimmy Carter says Congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst to President Barack Obama last week was an act “based on racism.” Carter says Wilson’s comment was part of an “inherent feeling” of some in this country who feel that a black man should not be president. Carter called Wilson’s comment “dastardly” and said the president should be treated with respect…. – AP, 9-15-09
  • House Vote of Disapproval on Rep. Joe Wilson: The 240-179 roll call Tuesday by which the House passed a resolution of disapproval against Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., for Wilson’s “You lie!” shout during President Barack Obama’s health care address to a joint session of Congress.
    Voting yes were 233 Democrats and 7 Republicans. Voting no were 12 Democrats and 167 Republicans. Voting present were 5 Democrats…. – AP, 9-15-09
  • Candidates Await Results as Polls Close: As the New York City primary election came to a close, candidates settled in and prepared to watch returns come in. At stake are the Democratic nominations for three citywide races — mayor, comptroller and public advocate — and for Manhattan district attorney. There are primary elections in 32 of the 51 City Council districts. Most incumbents seeking re-election were favored to win. NYT, 9-15-09
  • Jody Powell, who was White House press secretary and among the closest and most trusted advisers to President Jimmy Carter, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 65. AP, 9-14-09
  • Kennedy Senate race shaped by those not running: With the clock running on a shortened election calendar, the campaign to succeed Sen. Edward Kennedy has become notable for who’s not running, instead of who is.
    Not his wife, Vicki Kennedy. Not his nephew Joseph P. Kennedy II. Not Martin Meehan, a former congressman with a mother lode of $5 million in the bank. Not Andrew Card, a former White House chief of staff with the capacity to raise millions himself.
    On Monday, Rep. John Tierney said he wouldn’t run because he was more valuable to the state as a House veteran than as a Senate freshman. That was the same rationale his fellow Democrat, Rep. Edward J. Markey, gave Friday when he bailed on a campaign.
    So far, the field includes an attorney general not three years into her first statewide term, a state senator and a town selectman. Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling has talked about running, and Stephen Pagliuca, co-owner of the Boston Celtics, is said to be weighing a campaign…. – AP, 9-14-09
  • Obama, Clinton eat Italian after Obama’s NY speech: President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton met privately for about 90 minutes on Monday, discussing the global economy over a meal in Manhattan…. – AP, 9-14=09
  • Rules on Wilson’s outburst open to interpretation: Republican Rep. Joe Wilson may have violated good taste when he yelled “You lie!” at President Barack Obama last week, and Democrats are moving forward with a resolution scolding him for it. But did he break any specific House rules? The answer is more complicated than it seems, and the rules that some initially cited don’t appear to apply…. – AP, 9-14-09
  • For Obama, a Chance to Reform the Street Is Fading: President Obama on Monday sternly admonished the financial industry and lawmakers to accept his proposals to reshape financial regulation to protect the nation from a repeat of the excesses that drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy and wreaked havoc on the global economy last year.
    “We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess at the heart of this crisis,” President Obama said.
    But with the markets slowly healing, Mr. Obama’s plan to revamp financial rules faces a diminishing political imperative. Disenchantment by many Americans with big government, along with growing obstacles from financial industry lobbyists pressing Congress not to do anything drastic, have also helped to stall his proposals…. – NYT, 9-14-09
  • Obamas to hold event for Chicago Olympic bid: White House gathering on Wednesday will include Mayor Richard Daley, bid backers, athletes and schoolchildren… – Chicgo Tribune, 9-14-09
  • Dems seek to play down role of public option idea: The White House and its Democratic allies on Sunday tried to play down the role of a government insurance option in health care legislation as the party in power worked to reclaim momentum on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.
    His spokesman described the public option as just one way to achieve Obama’s goal of providing coverage to the estimated 45 uninsured Americans without insurance. His senior adviser contended the White House was not ready to accept that Congress would reject the idea, though he, too, said it was an option, not a make-or- break choice… – AP, 9-13-09
  • Key group of lawmakers nearing healthcare deal: A key group of U.S. senators was “very close” to agreement on healthcare reform, one of its members said on Sunday, suggesting Congress was nearer to meeting President Barack Obama’s goal of passing a reform bill this year.
    “We think we are very close to an agreement,” said Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and part of the “Gang of Six” bipartisan group that is trying to forge consensus, on “Fox News Sunday.”… – Reuters, 9-13-09
  • Election trouble brewing for House Dems in 2010: Despite sweeping Democratic successes in the past two national elections, continuing job losses and President Barack Obama’s slipping support could lead to double-digit losses for the party in next year’s congressional races and may even threaten their House control…. – AP, 9-13-09
  • Lawmaker Says No New Apology for Outburst: Representative Joe Wilson said Sunday that he would not apologize again for his outburst on Wednesday night, when he shouted “You lie!” to President Obama during Mr. Obama’s speech about health care legislation before a joint session of Congress. – NYT, 9-14-09
  • Wilson funds reach $1 million after ‘you lie’ cry, aide says – CNN, 9-12-09
  • Obama rallies Minneapolis crowd for healthcare reform: Drawing on the spirit of his presidential campaign, he likens the battle over the overhaul to that over Social Security under FDR.
    “I have no interest in having a bill get passed that fails,” Obama said.
    “I intend to be president for a while, and once this bill passes, I own it,” he continued. “And if people look and say, ‘You know what? This hasn’t reduced my costs. My premiums are still going up 25%, insurance companies are still jerking me around’ — I’m the one who’s going to be held responsible.”…. – LAT, 9-12-09
  • In Health Care Battle, a Truce on Abortion: “And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up: Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”
    Did that apparently unqualified statement by President Obama to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday guarantee that health care overhaul, whatever its other travails, will not fall victim to the seemingly intractable moral battle over abortion? Of course not… – NYT, 9-12-09
  • Commemorating 9/11, Obama renews resolve in terror fight: The president vows to ‘do everything in our power to keep America safe.’ He also notes Sept. 11’s ‘greatest lesson’: the spirit of service.
    Remembering those who died eight years ago in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Obama on Friday pledged to “do everything in our power to keep America safe.” “Let us renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act and who plot against us still,” Obama said Friday. “In defense of our nation we will never waver. In pursuit of Al Qaeda and its extremist allies, we will never falter.”
    This week, Obama circulated a memorandum to Congress that said: “The terrorist threat that led to the declaration on Sept. 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues.” Despite his stated resolve, however, a Gallup poll released Friday found that Republicans had an edge over Democrats — 49% to 42% — when Americans were asked which party would better protect the U.S. from terrorism and military threats…. – LAT, 9-11-09
  • Healthy Minnesota offers Obama model for nation: President Barack Obama will be in one of the nation’s healthiest states Saturday, where most people have health insurance, medical care tends to be cost-effective and providers like the Mayo Clinic have made a name far beyond the Upper Midwest. AP, 9-11-09
  • Senate committee tackles illegal-immigrant healthcare concerns: Drafters of overhaul plans had been considering the issue for months, and it gained new attention during Obama’s healthcare speech to Congress. But enforcement is fraught with its own problems…. – LAT, 9-12-09
  • Olympics-Michelle Obama to urge IOC to pick Chicago for 2016: U.S. President Barack Obama is sending his wife Michelle to Copenhagen next month to urge Olympics organisers to select Chicago to host the 2016 Games…. – Reuters, 9-11-09
  • Census Bureau Drops Acorn From 2010 Effort: The Census Bureau on Friday severed its ties with Acorn, a community organization that Republicans have accused of voter-registration fraud.
    “We do not come to this decision lightly,” the census director, Robert Groves, wrote in a letter to Acorn that was obtained by The Associated Press…. – AP, 9-11-09
  • Former Bush aide Card not seeking Kennedy seat: Former Bush White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said Friday he will not seek the Senate seat left vacant last month by the death of Edward Kennedy… – AP, 9-11-09
  • Obama faces skeptics in Congress over Afghan war: Carl Levin, the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was the latest top Democrat in Congress to voice opposition to a fresh military build-up in Afghanistan, as the White House weighs deploying yet more troop combat troops…. – AFP, 9-11-09
  • The voices behind Joe Wilson: The South Carolina congressman is representative of the GOP’s talk-radio-led wing…. – LAT, 9-11-09
  • Obama’s healthcare speech helps unify Democrats: Conservatives in the party praised the president’s pledge to ensure that an overhaul would not add to the government’s debt, and liberals cheered his endorsement of a government-run insurance plan…. – LAT, 9-10-09
  • Senators pay tribute to Kennedy ‘One of a kind’ lawmaker lauded: Senators from both parties spent more than five hours yesterday paying bittersweet tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, recalling their late colleague as the chamber’s generous elder statesman, a passionate liberal, and a fierce, well-schooled politician who never shied away from a political fight.
    But when the legislative skirmishing was over, his fellow senators recalled, Kennedy never held a grudge and knew the difference between an adversary and an enemy. And, they noted, he had nearly as many close friends among Republicans as he did among his Democratic allies…. – Boston Globe, 9-10-09
  • Abortion foes aren’t buying Obama’s assurances: They continue to campaign against healthcare reform, contending that federal money will go toward abortions if the president has his way…. – LAT, 9-10-09
  • Congress Faces Backlash Whether Overhaul Passes Or Not: When American political discourse has reached the point where a congressman shouts “You lie!” at the president during a nationally televised address, it must be a sign that the stakes are running pretty high.
    And so they are in the great health debate. Most analysis, though, has focused on only one side of the political poker game now under way: Will lawmakers pay a political price if they vote for a health bill that proves unpopular?
    There’s also a flip side to that question, which is about to get a lot more attention: Will lawmakers also pay a political price if nothing gets done — that is, if the effort to pass a health bill collapses in failure?… – WSJ, 9-10-09
  • Obama to deliver speech in N.Y. on financial crisis: President Obama will give what the White House called a major speech on the financial crisis on Monday, timed to the first anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse that precipitated the meltdown. At Federal Hall in New York City, Obama “will discuss the aggressive steps the administration has taken to bring the economy back from the brink, the commitment to winding down the government’s role in the financial sector, and the actions the United States and the global community must take to prevent a crisis like this from ever happening again,” the White House announced yesterday. – USA Today, 9-10-09
  • Obama advisers: 1M jobs saved or created: President Obama’s economic advisers estimated Thursday that the economic stimulus package has saved or created about 1 million jobs, drawing immediate criticism from Republicans.
    Christina Romer, the head of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said her team consulted other economists for its report to Congress on the likely effects of the $787 billion package of tax cuts, government spending and aid to states. The administration’s million-job estimate, while preliminary and uncertain, was “in the middle of the plausible range” of estimates made by independent experts, she said.
    “An economy that was in free-fall with a tremendous amount of downward momentum” is now improving in part because of the stimulus package, Romer said. – USA Today, 9-10-09
  • US troops in Afghanistan run to remember 9-11: U.S. troops in Afghanistan donned shorts and laced up sneakers Friday to run in memory of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, as they fight a war that was born of that day but which has seen waning public support. More than 1,000 service members ran 9.11 kilometers (about 5 1/2 miles) at the main U.S. base to commemorate the anniversary and remember troops who have died in nearly eight-years of fighting. AP, 9-10-09
  • Outrage over Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst isn’t dying down: Although President Obama accepted the Republican congressman’s apology for his ‘You lie’ remark, Democrats are calling for a public mea culpa and using the incident in fundraising appeals….
    “I’m a big believer that we all make mistakes,” Obama said in acknowledging the apology from Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). The lawmaker’s shout of “You lie!” during the president’s speech on healthcare was a significant break in decorum. “I do think that, as I said last night, we have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name-calling, without the assumption of the worst of other people’s motives,” Obama said. – LAT, 9-10-09
  • Sex scandal further damages lawmakers’ reputation: A scandal involving a family-values legislator caught boasting about his sexual escapades with his lobbyist mistresses created an embarrassing distraction for lawmakers Thursday, further diverting attention from California’s major policy issues in the crucial final days of their session. Republican Mike Duvall resigned Wednesday after a videotape surfaced in which he described to a colleague in lurid detail his sexual conquests, including a spanking fetish, the skimpy underwear of one mistress and his carrying on two affairs simultaneously. He sought to deny the affairs on Thursday…. – AP, 9-10-09

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • GOP hope for 2010: Voters nervous about Obama spending: Republican strategists see an opening in the fact independent voters like President Obama but are nervous about his economic policies. The Republican advocacy group Resurgent Republic conducted five focus groups in August among independents who voted for Mr. Obama in the presidential election but were undecided about whether to support a Republican or Democrat in the 2010 congressional race…. – CS Monitor, 9-14-09


The crowd at the rally

  • Book: Bush dissed Obama, Palin (and Hillary’s behind): President George W. Bush’s former speechwriter Matt Latimer reveals that Bush considered Barack Obama unfit for the White House and predicted that vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin would be a disaster for the GOP.
    “After one of Obama’s blistering speeches against the administration, the president had a very human reaction: He was ticked off,” Latimer writes in his forthcoming book, “Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor,” which has been excerpted in the October issue of GQ.
    “He came in one day to rehearse a speech, fuming. ‘This is a dangerous world,’ he said for no apparent reason, ‘and this cat isn’t remotely qualified to handle it. This guy has no clue, I promise you.'”… – KC Star, 9-15-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON FINANCIAL RESCUE AND REFORM Federal Hall New York, New York: While full recovery of the financial system will take a great deal more time and work, the growing stability resulting from these interventions means we’re beginning to return to normalcy. But here’s what I want to emphasize today: Normalcy cannot lead to complacency. … So what we’re calling for is for the financial industry to join us in a constructive effort to update the rules and regulatory structure to meet the challenges of this new century. That is what my administration seeks to do. We’ve sought ideas and input from industry leaders and policy experts, academics, consumer advocates, and the broader public. And we’ve worked closely with leaders in the Senate and the House, including not only Barney, but also Senators Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby, and Barney is already working with his counterpart, Sheldon [sic] Bachus. And we intend to pass regulatory reform through Congress.
    And taken together, we’re proposing the most ambitious overhaul of the financial regulatory system since the Great Depression. But I want to emphasize that these reforms are rooted in a simple principle: We ought to set clear rules of the road that promote transparency and accountability. That’s how we’ll make certain that markets foster responsibility, not recklessness. That’s how we’ll make certain that markets reward those who compete honestly and vigorously within the system, instead of those who are trying to game the system. …. – WH, 9-14-09
  • Obama Pledges to ‘Own’ Health-Care Bill: President Barack Obama, continuing his push to secure support for a health-care overhaul, reiterated his willingness to address the issue of medical malpractice suits, a Republican priority. But the president suggested that his desire for a bipartisan bill wouldn’t trump his ultimate goal of passing legislation this year.
    “We’re not going to get a better opportunity to solve our health-care issues than we have right now,” he said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes…. – WSJ, 9-13-09
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Highlights New Treasury Report on Instability of Health Insurance in America: “In the United States of America, no one should have to worry that they’ll go without health care – not for one year, not for one month, not for one day. And once I sign my health reform plan into law – they won’t.”… – WH, 9-12-09

<object width=”480″ height=”295″><param name=”movie” value=”″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”; type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” width=”480″ height=”295″ allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true”></embed></object>

  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT WREATH-LAYING CEREMONY AT THE PENTAGON MEMORIAL The Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen and members of the Armed Forces, fellow Americans, family and friends of those that we lost this day — Michelle and I are deeply humbled to be with you.
    Eight Septembers have come and gone. Nearly 3,000 days have passed — almost one for each of those taken from us. But no turning of the seasons can diminish the pain and the loss of that day. No passage of time and no dark skies can ever dull the meaning of this moment.
    So on this solemn day, at this sacred hour, once more we pause. Once more we pray — as a nation and as a people; in city streets where our two towers were turned to ashes and dust; in a quiet field where a plane fell from the sky; and here, where a single stone of this building is still blackened by the fires.
    We remember with reverence the lives we lost. We read their names. We press their photos to our hearts. And on this day that marks their death, we recall the beauty and meaning of their lives; men and women and children of every color and every creed, from across our nation and from more than 100 others. They were innocent. Harming no one, they went about their daily lives. Gone in a horrible instant, they now “dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”
    We honor all those who gave their lives so that others might live, and all the survivors who battled burns and wounds and helped each other rebuild their lives; men and women who gave life to that most simple of rules: I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper… – WH, 9-11-09

<object width=”480″ height=”295″><param name=”movie” value=”″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”; type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” width=”480″ height=”295″ allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true”></embed></object>

  • Dems answer Obama’s call for action on health care: Democratic leaders wrestling with health care legislation are confronting a host of knotty issues such as medical malpractice, abortion, illegal immigrants and Medicaid, all the while predicting passage of sweeping health care legislation within a few months.
    “That’s the legislative process,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said as she and other Democrats shifted from praising President Barack Obama’s health care speech this week to the less glamorous task of trying to negotiate a bill that will pass muster with a host of opposing factions.
    “As issues emerge, let’s drill down on the public option, let’s drill down on what this means to small business, let’s drill down on what this means to seniors,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday…. – AP, 9-11-09


The President records the Weekly Address

  • Stephen Hess “Change the channel Sunday, you’ll still see president”: On Sunday, Obama is scheduled to appear on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CNN’s “State of the Union” programs, according to the shows’ websites and the White House. He will sit for an interview on the Spanish-language network Univision to air that day as well. Obama also is booked for “Late Show With David Letterman” on Monday night.
    “He’s pulling out all the stops, and why not,” said Stephen Hess, a presidential historian at George Washington University in Washington. “The answer to why not is that he’s overbooked or that he becomes an old story. I don’t think that cuts the ice. Those stories are written by people who watch everything.” – Bloomberg News, 9-16-09
  • Gil Troy “‘He’s a black man’ What lies beneath the Obama backlash? A Democratic stalwart cries racism, igniting a fiery debate”: Gil Troy, a professor of U.S. history at McGill University, said he sees little difference between the treatment of Mr. Obama and the way opponents attacked his predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
    He pointed out that Mr. Clinton spent much of his presidency dealing with personal political attacks, while Mr. Bush was often branded a liar over his decision to invade Iraq.
    “When Obama was elected, everyone was talking about how it was a sign of Americans’ political maturity,” Prof. Troy said. “To immediately start playing the race card the first time he runs into trouble is a mark of his supporters’ immaturity.”
    If nothing else, the controversy makes it clear that Mr. Obama’s political honeymoon is over, he added.
    “His supporters are trying to demonize and marginalize normal politics. Conservatives do it to liberals. This time liberals are doing it to conservatives.” – Globe & Mail, 9-17-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer “Commentary: Why the shock about Joe Wilson?”: When Rep. Joe Wilson interrupted President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress by yelling “You lie!” a livid House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looked as if she was about to jump out of her seat and give her colleague a five-minute “time out” for misbehavior.
    Majority Whip Jim Clyburn warned that he supports reprimanding Wilson unless he goes to the well of the House and apologizes. Many pundits and politicians have subsequently lamented that the incident has revealed a new level of incivility in Congress.
    And certainly this was an embarrassing moment for the GOP, which looked more like the party of Joseph McCarthy than Ronald Reagan. This has been a summer when some members of the Republican Party outside of Congress have chosen a strategy of yelling and screaming, rather than debating and legislating…. – CNN, 9-14-09
  • Stephen Hess: Unplugged: LBJ Had Unique Talent to Pass Medicare: Johnson “was the president of the United States who knew the Senate and the Congress better than any president in history,” Hess, a presidential historian, told CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson. “It would be love to have somebody else who had that capacity to twist arms, but there ain’t no Lyndon Johnson around.” (I dont get what the part in read means, is the quote right?) – CBS News, 9-16-09
  • Stanley Kutler “Afghanistan: Doubt grows over another distant war”: “Americans aren’t conscious of Afghanistan,” says historian Stanley Kutler, editor of The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War. “You couldn’t help but be conscious of Vietnam because of the draft,” he said. But in Afghanistan, “The alleged reasons for going there have completely left the public consciousness.”… – AP, 9-10-09
  • Rick Shenkman “Pelosi rates Obama’s speech one for the ages”: Historians will wait for the outcome of those fights and whether Mr. Obama wins before deciding whether his oratory was truly “great,” said Rick Shenkman, a presidential historian at George Mason University.
    “I don’t know what Nancy Pelosi was thinking,” he said, questioning what criteria she used to rate Mr. Obama’s forensic skills.
    He said Mr. Obama “got off a few good lines, I thought, but none that people are going to be quoting 50 years from now — let alone five months from now.”… – Washintton Times, 9-11-09
  • Fred Beuttler “Heckling of president is rare in American history”: Presidents didn’t even address Congress between 1800, when John Adams held the job, and 1913, says Fred Beuttler, deputy historian at the House of Representatives, who calls the Wilson incident “highly unusual, if not unique.” “Occasionally, members of the opposing party have been known to boo and jeer as expressions of dissent on a specific point,” says Beuttler, citing instances during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. But before Wednesday, he says, “expressions of individual opposition of members to a president’s speech had not been recorded.” – AP, 9-11-09
  • Jack Bass, humanities professor, College of Charleston, Lacy K. Ford Jr., historian, University of South Carolina: Over the Line in South Carolina – NYT, 9-10-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer “Commentary: Liberals’ passion for public option”: President Obama was caught off guard by the frustration that liberals expressed at the suggestion he might drop the public option from health care reform.
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned that, “There’s no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option.”
    The proposal for the government to offer Americans health insurance as one of their options had excited many Democrats.
    But the White House insists that the public option was not central to its original plan. One senior adviser complained to the Washington Post, “I don’t understand why the left of the left has decided that this is their Waterloo.” Still, the administration responded to its critics and again expressed support for the public option…. – CNN, 8-25-09
  • David M. Kennedy: Could Afghanistan Become Obama’s Vietnam?: “The analogy of Lyndon Johnson suggests itself very profoundly,” said David M. Kennedy, the Stanford University historian. Mr. Obama, he said, must avoid letting Afghanistan shadow his presidency as Vietnam did Mr. Johnson’s. “He needs to worry about the outcome of that intervention and policy and how it could spill over into everything else he wants to accomplish.” – NYT, 8-23-09

History Buzz July 13, 2009: 30th Anniversary of Jimmy Carter’s Malaise Speech




  • Obama’s Secret Meeting With Historians: The president held a dinner at the White House for leading presidential scholars
    Obama held a dinner at the White House residence with nine such scholars on June 30, and it turned out to be what one participant described as a “history book club, with the president as the inquisitor.” Among those attending were Michael Beschloss, H. W. Brands, Douglas Brinkley, Robert Dallek, and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Obama asked the guests to discuss the presidencies that they were most familiar with and to give him insights into what remains relevant to the problems of today. – Kenneth T. Walsh in US News & World Report (7-10-09)





  • Kevin Mattson: Thirty Years Later, in Praise of Malaise WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU UP TO, MR. PRESIDENT? Jimmy Carter, America’s “Malaise,” and the Speech That Should Have Changed the Country WaPo, 7-12-09
  • Shaun A. Casey: RELIGION AND POLITICS Faith in the Electorate THE MAKING OF A CATHOLIC PRESIDENT Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960 WaPo, 7-12-09
  • Richard Wrangham & Tom Standage: Cooking Up a Pot of Civilization CATCHING FIRE How Cooking Made Us Human, AN EDIBLE HISTORY OF HUMANITY WaPo, 7-12-09
  • Margaret MacMillan: Getting History Right DANGEROUS GAMES The Uses and Abuses of History WaPo, 7-12-09
  • James Scott: HISTORY Misguided Missiles THE ATTACK ON THE LIBERTY The Untold Story of Israel’s Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship WaPo, 7-12-09
  • Larry Tye: BIOGRAPHY ‘No Man Got to Be Common’ SATCHEL The Life and Times of an American Legend WaPo, 7-12-09
  • Larry Tye: SATCHEL The Life and Times of an American Legend Chapter One Coming Alive – WaPo, 7-12-09
  • Gavin Mortimer: HISTORY The Wright Stuff CHASING ICARUS The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation WaPo, 7-12-09
  • Craig Nelson, Andrew Chaikin with Victoria Kohl: Giant Step, Full Stop ROCKET MEN The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, VOICES FROM THE MOON Apollo Astronauts Describe Their Lunar Experiences NYT, 7-8-09
  • Craig Nelson: ROCKET MEN The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon, Chapter Seven A Way to Talk to God – NYT, 7-8-09
  • Elijah Wald: Roll Over, John Lennon HOW THE BEATLES DESTROYED ROCK ‘N’ ROLL An Alternative History of American Popular Music NYT, 7-10-09
  • James MacGregor Burns: New Book on Supreme Court by Historian Packing the Court: The Rise of Judicial Power and the Coming Crisis of the Supreme Court (7-6-09)
  • James MacGregor Burns says Supremes Really Govern America Packing the Court: The Rise of Judicial Power and the Coming Crisis of the Supreme Court MICHIKO KAKUTANI in the NYT (7-6-09)




  • Immanuel Ness: You Say You Want a Reference Book About Revolution? The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, 1500 to the Present Inside Higher Ed (7-8-09)
  • Michael Oren: Israeli Ambassador in conversation with Jeffrey Goldberg (7-2-09)



  • August 1, 2009: An Evening with Ken Burns: Kens Burns has been making documentary films for more than 30 years. Since the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of Burns’ films, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.” This evening will afford Chautauqua an opportunity to hear one of the most influential documentary makers of all time. Chautauqua Institutition. For more info 716-357-6200. – Jamestown Post-Journal, 5-21-09


  • Niall Ferguson: The Ascent of Money Brings The Economic Crisis Down to Earth on PBS each Wednesday in July –, 6-29-09
  • BBC to launch new series on history of Christianity – Religious Intelligence, 6-19-09
  • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
  • PBS History Detectives: Mondays at 9pm
  • History Channel: Weekly Schedule
  • History Channel: “The Exodus Decoded” – Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 2pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Mega Disasters: San Francisco Earthquake” – Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 6pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Cities Of The Underworld: New York: Secret Societies” – Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Antichrist” – Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 2pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Angels: Good or Evil” – Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 4pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Lost Worlds: The Real Dracula” – Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 6pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “True Story of the Bridge on the River Kwai” – Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 2pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Lost Pyramid” – Friday, July 17, 2009 at 2pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “UFO Files: The Pacific Bermuda Triangle” – Friday, July 17, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Kennedys: The Curse of Power” – Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Kennedy Assassination: Beyond Conspiracy” – Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 10pm ET/PT



  • Roger S. Bagnall: Oxford Handbook of Papyrology, July 14, 2009
  • David Maraniss: Rome 1960: The Summer Olympics That Stirred the World (Reprint), July 14, 2009
  • Buzz Aldrin: Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon, July 23, 2009
  • Alice Morse Earle: Child Life in Colonial Times (Paperback), July 23, 2009
  • William A. DeGregorio: The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, Seventh Edition, August 15, 2009
  • Douglas Hunter: Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage That Redrew the Map of the New World, September 1, 2009
  • Annette Gordon-Reed: The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (Paperback), September 8, 2009
  • Jon Krakauer: Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, September 15, 2009


June 16, 2008: It’s the economy again, stupid as both candidates tout their plans

The week that was….

  • June 16, 2008: Former Vice President Al Gore endorses Obama.
  • June 15, 2008: McCain cancels a fundraiser in Texas after questions concerning the host Texas oilman, Clayton “Claytie” Williams’ 1990 jokes about rape. Many black conservative consider voting for Obama because he is making history as the first black to capture a Presidential nomination.
  • June, 14, 2008: John McCain publicly opposes the Supreme Court decision that would allow suspected terrorist detainees the right to appeal for their release in federal courts.
  • June 13, 2008: Obama proposes taxing incomes above $250,000. The McCain, Obama camps fail to agree on the town hall sessions, McCain wants ten, Obama wants just one around July 4th.
  • June 12, 2008: The Obama campaign creates a website to debunk campaign myths after Michelle Obama was accused of using the racial slur “whitey.”
  • June 11, 2008: at the start of the general campaign, Obama is the favorite to win Iowa in the election. Obama’s adviser and top vetter for Vice Presidential candidates, Jim Johnson resigned amid calls of a loan scandal.
  • June 10, 2008: McCain, Obama criticize each other’s plans to rejuvenate the economy, jabs traded on taxes.
  • June 9, 2008: Nominees John McCain and Barack Obama negotiate to meet for 10 hall meetings in the next couple of months, but reject NYC Mayor Bloomberg and ABC’s offer to host the first one on grounds that they do not want just one network airing it.

The Stats

  • June 12, 2008: Gallup Poll Daily reports Barack Obama leads John McCain 48 percent to 42 percent.

Historians Comment

  • Blair Kelley a historian of social movements at North Carolina State University in Raleigh on “How Clinton and Obama boosted feminism, civil rights The primary contest helped both of the historical causes, though some tensions erupted”:
    “Both Obama and Hillary Clinton have transformed what people, from all walks of life, believe is possible.” – Christian Science Monitor, 6-17-08
  • Norman McRae on “Obama’s candidacy is writing history”:
    Obama, win or lose, will become the symbol. But Detroit historian Norman McRae wants more. “I think that every African American should go to the polls and vote for Barack Obama,” he said. McCrae, who first voted for Harry S. Truman in 1948, is 82. He said that Obama “validates all the activities from Frederick Douglass to Jesse Jackson, from Ida B. Wells to now. It validates all of them.” – Detroit Free Press, 6-15-08
  • Jeremy Varon, a historian at Drew University on “McCain ad asserts his hatred of war Senator shifts tone to draw moderates”:
    “To me, the ad is much more playing off Bush than playing off Obama,” said Jeremy Varon, a historian at Drew University in Madison, N.J., who has studied antiwar movements. “The point of this is for McCain to say: ‘I’m very different from my predecessor even if I want to fight the same war.'” – Boston Globe, 6-11-08
  • Robert Dallek on “Obama rebuts rumors on new Web site”:
    “There is a line between scurrilous nonsense and serious discussion, that laps over, especially in this day and age, when you’ve got all this electronic media and these blogs and this kind of fanatical impulse to bring down the opposing candidate…. You never know what’s going to take hold… Dallek, the historian, said it was not surprising to see the latest swirl of political rumor and innuendo. “There have always been rumors,” he said: “That Andrew Jackson was a polygamist, that Grover Cleveland had fathered an illegitimate child, that James G. Blaine was a corruptionist.” Some claims – such as those in 1960 that John F. Kennedy was a womanizer – were even true, he added. – International Herald Tribune, 6-11-08
  • Robert Dallek, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles on “Historians See Little Chance for McCain”:
    “These things go in cycles. The public gets tired of one approach to politics. There is always a measure of optimism in this country, so they turn to the other party.” –, 6-15-08
  • James Campbell, a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo who specializes in campaigns and elections on “Historians See Little Chance for McCain”:
    “Open-seat elections are somewhat different, so the referendum aspect is somewhat muted. McCain would be in much better shape if Bush’s approval rating were at 45 to 50 percent. But the history is that in-party candidates are not penalized or rewarded to the same degree as incumbents.” –, 6-15-08
  • Sidney Milkis, a professor of presidential politics at the University of Virginia on “Historians See Little Chance for McCain”: “I can’t think of an upset where the underdog faced quite the odds that McCain faces in this election.” Even “Truman didn’t face as difficult a political context as McCain.” –, 6-15-08
  • Allan Lichtman, an American University presidential historian who ran in a Maryland Democratic senatorial primary in 2006 on “Historians See Little Chance for McCain”:
    “This should be an overwhelming Democratic victory.” Lichtman, whose forecasting model has correctly predicted the last six presidential popular vote winners, predicts that this year, “Republicans face what have always been insurmountable historical odds.” His system gives McCain a score on par with Jimmy Carter’s in 1980. –, 6-15-08
  • Joan Hoff, a professor at Montana State University and former president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency on “Historians See Little Chance for McCain”:
    “McCain shouldn’t win it,” said presidential historian She compared McCain’s prospects to those of Hubert Humphrey, whose 1968 loss to Richard Nixon resulted in large part from the unpopularity of sitting Democratic president Lyndon Johnson. –, 6-15-08
  • Allan J. Lichtman’s KEYS TO THE ELECTION in “Political patterns favor Obama, scholars say “:
    Historian Allan J. Lichtman is renowned in political circles for his “13 keys to the White House.” Over nearly a century and a half, no candidate from the incumbent party has won the presidency if six or more of the keys are going against him. Key 1: Party mandate. After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House than it did after the previous midterm elections.
    Key 2: Contest. There is no serious contest for the incumbent-party nomination.
    Key 3: Incumbency. The incumbent-party candidate is the sitting president.
    Key 4: Third party. There is no significant third-party or independent campaign.
    Key 5: Short-term economy. The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
    Key 6: Long-term economy. Real per-capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.
    Key 7: Policy change. The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.
    Key 8: Social unrest. There is no sustained social unrest during the term.
    Key 9: Scandal. The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
    Key 10: Foreign/military failure. The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
    Key 11: Foreign/military success. The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
    Key 12: Incumbent charisma. The incumbent-party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.
    Key 13: Challenger charisma. The challenging-party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. –, 6-16-08
  • Alan Schroeder: Historian Imagines McCain-Obama Debate – NPR, 6-17-08
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin on “Next for Clinton: Vice President? Senate? Governor?” – NPR, 6-5-08
  • Richard Norton Smith on “Town Hall Meetings for McCain, Obama?” – NPR, 6-5-08
  • Mary Frances Berry, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and former chair of the Civil Rights Commission on “Obama: History in the Making” – NPR, 6-4-08

On the Campaign Trail….

    Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Change That Works for You, June 9, 2008 …I’ve often said that this election represents a defining moment in our history. On major issues like the war in Iraq or the warming of our planet, the decisions we make in November and over the next few years will shape a generation, if not a century.That is especially true when it comes to our economy….

    We will begin this general election campaign by traveling across the country for the next few weeks to talk about what specifically we need to do to build a 21st economy that works for working Americans. I will speak with economic experts and advisors at the end of the tour, but first I want to speak with you, and hear about your thoughts and your struggles in the places where you live and work. And at each stop, I will take the opportunity to lay out the very real and very serious differences on the economy between myself and Senator McCain….

    This is the choice you will face in November. You can vote for John McCain, and see a continuation of Bush economic policies – more tax cuts to the wealthy, more corporate tax breaks, more mountains of debt, and little to no relief for families struggling with the rising costs of everything from health care to a college education.

    But I don’t think that is the future we want. The Americans I’ve met over the last sixteen months in town halls and living rooms; on farms and front porches – they may come from different places and have different backgrounds, but they hold common hopes and dream the same simple dreams. They know government can’t solve all their problems, and they don’t expect it to. They believe in personal responsibility, and hard work, and self-reliance. They don’t like seeing their tax dollars wasted.

  • Remarks by John McCain at the NFIB and eBay 2008 National Small Business Summit, June 10, 2008…Now that we know who I will be facing in the general election, the real debate over economic policy can begin. And as you may have heard, Senator Obama and I might well be meeting soon in a series of town hall discussions. Just the two of us, in direct conversation with voters. No need to turn it into a big media-run production with process questions from reporters, a spin room, and all the rest of it. To keep things friendly, I also suggested that my opponent and I travel to these town hall meetings together in the same plane.Our disagreements in these town hall meetings will be civil and friendly, but they will also be clear for all to see. On tax policy, health-care reform, trade, government spending, and a long list of other issues, we offer very different choices to the American people. And those choices will have very different consequences for American workers and small business owners.

    No matter which of us wins in November, there will be change in Washington. The question is what kind of change? Will we enact the single largest tax increase since the Second World War as my opponent proposes, or will we keep taxes low for families and employers? This election offers Americans a very distinct choice about what kind of change we will have. This is especially true for the small business community.

    Let me speak to you about the change I will seek….

    My goal, however, is not to denigrate government but to make it better, not to deride it but to restore its good name. Government should be on your side, not in your way. It will be hard work, but it is a cause worthy of our best efforts. And if we do it well, in the right spirit, it will be because we have again put our country’s interests before the interests of parties, bureaucracies and self-interest. And then we will finally reclaim the confidence of the people we serve.

  • Former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore in an email…, June 16, 2008
    Dear Friend,A few hours from now I will step on stage in Detroit, Michigan to announce my support for Senator Barack Obama. From now through Election Day, I intend to do whatever I can to make sure he is elected President of the United States.

    Over the next four years, we are going to face many difficult challenges — including bringing our troops home from Iraq, fixing our economy, and solving the climate crisis. Barack Obama is clearly the candidate best able to solve these problems and bring change to America.

%d bloggers like this: